Friday, January 20, 2017

Trumpic Cascade (who's top predator?)

The goal of this blog is to send reverberations through your dinner conversation tonight ...  Continuing to wish a speedy recovery to Tamar Adina bas Kayna Shulamis.

Trump webA trophic cascade is an amazing phenomenon of nature.

In a nutshell, a top predator's presence reverberates throughout the entire ecosystem, affecting the behavior of not only all other animals in the complex food web but also the plants and even the abiotic factors.

In other words, who's at the top really matters. (Even if you believe it is Divinely ordained.)

Last summer I mentioned the perils of simple-majority voting.

This week seems like a good time to dust-off and update our leadership quiz.

So today's main question for your table: What are the qualities of a great leader?

On each of these alternatives, choose the one that you think is most important:

1. [A] Wise in all major matters of state v. [B] Relies on wisdom of advisors
2. [A] Upholds the letter of the law v. [B] Upholds the spirit of the law
3. [A] Doesn’t make serious mistakes v. [B] Admits mistakes and apologizes
4. [A] Clean background v. [B] Proverbial skeleton in the closet
5. [A] Commands respect and wields authority v. [B] Walks humbly
6. [A] Multicultural v. [B] Patriotic
7. [A] Quick to respond v. [B] Slow to respond
8. [A] Fully developed skills v. [B] Able to learn on the job

OK, don’t peek below until you’ve made your choices ...

+ + + + +

Now, I don't claim these are the "right" answers, but it seems to me that the weight of Jewish thought would say:

1. B – When King David faced a social-economic problem, he consulted the wise men (Talmud Ber. 3b).

2. A and B. Tough job. He or she should keep a travel-size copy of the Constitution on hand at all times as a reminder that not even the King (or President) is above the law. (Would the Kindle or iPhone/iPad version count?)

3. BNo question about this – everyone makes mistakes. If we expect perfect leaders we are guaranteed scandals and cover-ups. If our leaders know we can forgive their errors as long as they own up to them, then we will have both more honesty and better role models.

4. The surprising answer here is B. The Talmud considers this a necessary quality for a successful head of government. The idea is to keep your leader from becoming arrogant. See Q. 5.

5. Tough one. Obviously A and B, but how do you balance authority with humility?

6. The Executive should be patriotic but worldly. Legislators should be worldly but patriotic. Judges should be multilingual.

7. I'm going for B - we like decisiveness but we don't want hasty. The three eldest sons of Yaakov (Jacob) lost the leadership because they were impetuous.

8. I'll leave this one unanswered here, but would be pleased to hear the answers from your table.

(Advanced question: What does this whole discussion have to do with this week's parsha?)

Shabbat Shalom

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